THE WAY TO RENDER ASSISTANCE TO THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED.
2. There are three kinds of suffrage : 1st, the holy Sacrifice of the Mass; 2ndly, prayer; and 3rdly, all penal and satisfactory works, such as fasting, alms, pious pilgrimages, and the like. Observe that prayer, "though it too is satisfactory, is distinguished from other satisfactory works. The reason of the distinction is, that prayer is of assistance to the faithful departed in two ways. First, inasmuch as it is a laborious and penal work. In this sense it comes under the class of satisfactory works. Secondly, prayer assists the dead, inasmuch as it is impetratory, that is, beseeching, or containing an entreaty. In this latter sense it resembles the prayers of the saints in heaven for us and the souls in Purgatory. These prayers of the saints are not satisfactory. Neither are ours, in as far as they are impetratory.
Indulgences, which are applicable and advantageous to the dead, belong to the third class of suffrages. Such indulgences are nothing else than an application to the dead of the penal and satisfactory works of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saints. 'These penal and satisfactory works go to form what is called the Treasure of the Church. The Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Jesus Christ, as the supreme dispenser of this treasure, unlocks it, and applies the just named penal and satisfactory works to the dead. Thus he is said to grant indulgences to the dead by way of suffrage, but not by way of absolution. He cannot absolve the dead from their pains or debts, as he absolves the living; for the dead, having been with drawn from his jurisdiction, and placed under that of God alone, are not subject to him, as the living are.
3. That the suffrages, which are applicable and useful to the dead, are of three kinds, is easily shown from the Fathers. St. Chrysostom (Homil 69, ad popul.) writes ; " It is not rashly this has been sanctioned by the Apostles, that in the dreadful mysteries there should be made a commemoration of the dead, for they know that much utility comes there-from to them." In this passage " he recommends the sacred mysteries of the altar, or the holy sacrifice of the Mass, as a suffrage for the dead. In another place (Homil. 41, in i, ad. Corinth.) he recommends prayers and alms for them, after this manner : " Let a dead man be assisted, not by tears, but by prayers, supplications, and alms.
St. Augustine (Serm. 32, de. verbis apostoli.) says: " There is no doubt that the dead are assisted by the prayers of holy Church, and the salutary sacrifice, and alms.'' It is thus in his own language that St. Augustine names for us the three modes of assisting the dead—the holy sacrifice of the Mass, prayer, and alms.
St. Ambrose (Lib. 2, Epist. 8, ad Faustinum) speaking on sacrifice and prayers for the dead, thus addresses Faustinus on the occasion of the death of his sister : " I think that she is not so much to be deplored, as to be followed by prayers, nor to be saddened by thy tears, but her soul is to be recommended to the Lord by prayers —. It is in this strong and emphatic language the great Archbishop of Milan recommends prayer as a suffrage for the dead. He is equally clear in recommending alms for them. He exhorts (Lib. 2., de fide Resurrectionis.) the parents of Satyr, who had died, to transmit the portion of the inheritance that fell to their dead children, to their souls, by giving it in alms to the poor.
We arc furnished by Bede (Lib. 5, Historiæ, cap 13.) with the testimony of an angel, which shows that the holy sacrifice of the Mass, prayer, alms and fasting, are a suffrage for the It is thus recorded: "The prayers of the, living, and alms, and fastings, and most of all the celebration of Masses, assist many, to the end that they may be liberated before the day of judgment."
4. Though departed souls are said to have often appeared to the living, and to have requested them to make restitution for them of the goods which, while alive, they either forgot, or were unable to restore, it should not be inferred there-from, that the restitution of another man's goods is of advantage to the dead, or constitutes a fourth class of suffrages. Furthermore, though what St. Bridget (Lib. 6, revelationum, cap. 66.) says of a soul having been tormented until restitution was made, would seem to make restitution a suffrage for the dead, we cannot admit this. If restitution be made, it is of no advantage to the dead. If it be not made, this is no obstacle to their entrance into heaven. This opinion was held by Soto, and has been adopted by other theologians. It surely seems to be according to reason. The soul is not punished for what is done by others after it in this life. It is only punished for the faults itself committed while it was here. Either the dead person committed sin, or did not, in not making restitution. If he did not commit sin, it was either because he was unable to make restitution, or because he believed, bona fide, that what belonged to another, was his own. In either alternative he did not commit sin, and, as a consequence, should not be punished. If, however, he did commit a venial sin in not making restitution, he shall be punished in Purgatory for his own negligence, and not for that of another. When he is sufficiently punished, when he has paid the debt due of him, be it venial sin or the temporal punishment due to mortal sin, he will be admitted into heaven whether, or not, restitution is made on earth. It is now simply out of his power to make restitution, and his happiness ought not to depend on the will of one on earth, unless we wish to say that he should remain for ever in Purgatory, if his heir neglects to make restitution. Hence, if the heir on earth neglects to make restitution, he commits sin, but his negligence does not hurt the soul in Purgatory. On the other hand, if the heir makes restitution, it is of no advantage to the soul, for restitution is no satisfaction for sin. Satisfaction is some good work, which is penal. This does not apply to restitution ; for though it is penal to give away what belongs to yourself, it is not penal to restore what belongs to another.
As far as regards the objection drawn from the apparitions that are said to have taken place, it may be answered that the souls who appeared asked for restitution as an alms, but not as restitution in the strict and proper sense of the word. It is of no service to the soul, if restitution, properly so called, be made; because then it is not a penal work, but merely giving to another what belongs to him. Still, if restitution be made as an alms, that is, if one who is not bound to do so, restores a thing, this sort of restitution is of service to the soul, for it is a kind of alms, and therefore satisfactory.
Some theologians, however, following Lessius, (Num. 36.) think that if restitution be made through love of justice, it is meritorious, and consequently of advantage to the dead by way of deprecation. They say that every good work can, by way of deprecation, be offered up for the relief or advantage of others. Moreover, they say that such restitution—because sometimes penal and meritorious—can, as a suffrage, assist the dead. It may furthermore be said that God may make the refreshment or liberation of a suffering soul depend on the prayers which a creditor or others may offer up for it. Therefore, what St. Bridget says, that souls are tormented until restitution is made of what is unjustly taken away, is not entirely so strange, and may, in part, be true. Bellarmine is afraid to admit this, lest it should be thought that the soul may be tormented for ever if restitution were not made. He may be answered, however, by saying, that God will not suffer that restitution, which may be necessary for the liberation of the soul, to be deferred for ever.
5. Theologians say that an offering of oil, candles, and similar things, made for the worship of God, forms a suffrage for the dead. St. Thomas,(Suppl. q. 71, a. 9, ad 6.) speaking of such offerings, says that they assist the dead " inasmuch as they are a species of alms, for they are given for the service of the Church, or even for the use of the faithful."
6. Suppose a man has made provision to have suffrages offered for his soul after death, shall it suffer detriment if they are neglected ? The answer to this question is, that his soul will surely receive the fruit of his good disposition, of the pious intention he had in making provision for his release from affliction after death. However, he shall receive no further fruit from these suffrages. He shall not receive the fruit that belongs to the suffrage itself, or inasmuch as it is a work that is per formed, and is termed by theologians ex opere operato. Neither shall he receive that fruit which is called ex opere operantis, that is, the fruit of the suffrage, in asmuch as this is the work of the person who per forms it. Hence executors, and others who stand in a similar position, commit sin, if they defer too long the execution of the charitable dispositions of a will. Sylvius ( Suppl. q. 71, ad 6.) says: ''From which it is plain, that it would not be lawful for executors to delay the distribution of alms, unless perhaps for a short time, and in order that the affairs of the deceased may be sold for more, and so there may be more alms to be distributed."
7. Another interesting question is, whether suffrage offered for many persons, is of as much advantage to each of them as it would be to one, if it were offered for him alone. Suppose you offer suffrage for ten persons, does each of them gain the same advantage as if you offered it solely for himself? Before answering this question, we must make a distinction between those suffrages which consist in any good and meritorious works, different from sacrifice, and those which consist in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
Regarding the first class of suffrages—those which consist in meritorious works, different from sacrifice —most theologians teach that, considered as to the value they possess in virtue of that charity which unites the different members of the Church, they, though offered for many, are equally advantageous to each, as if they were offered for him alone. In this opinion these theologians only follow St. Thomas, (Suppl, q. 71, art. 13.) who says that such suffrages, " if considered according to what they are worth in virtue of charity uniting the members of the Church, when made for many, are as profitable to each as if they were made for one alone; because charity is not lessened, though its effect may be divided between many; nay, rather it is more increased." But if we look at these suffrages, according to the value they possess as satisfactory works, which one performs and intends for the dead, theologians teach that they are more profitable to one person, if offered for him alone, than they would be to each, if offered for many persons. On this point, too, they are in accord with St. Thomas, (Lodem loco.) who writes : "But if the value of suffrages be considered inasmuch as they are some satisfactions, translated unto the dead by the intention of the person who makes them, then the suffrage, which is made particularly for some one, is worth more to him than that which is made in common for him and many others." We have a confirmation of this teaching in the condemnation of one (N 19, Vide Tom. 12, Concil; p: 46.) of the propositions of Wycliffe, which asserted that " special prayers applied to one person by prelates or religious, are of no more profit to him than general ones, other things being equal." This proposition has been condemned by the Church ; and, therefore, we must hold that special prayers, offered for a person solely, are more profitable to him than general ones, or those offered for him along with others.
As to the suffrages of the second class—those which consist in the venerable and holy sacrifice of the Mass—there is a great difference of opinion whether they are as profitable to a person when offered for him along with others, as when offered solely for himself. Suppose the holy sacrifice to be offered for four souls, is that effect, which would be given to one, divided between the four ? Thus, if one soul would receive from the sacrifice the remission of four years of Purgatory, are these four years divided between four souls for whom it is offered, so that each would receive the fourth part of its effect, or the remission of one year of Purgatory?
Cardinal Cajetan, and other theologians, hold that the Mass is as profitable to each of many persons as it would be to one, if offered for him alone. They were led so to think by reason of what is called the extensive infinity of the holy sacrifice of the Mass. Some of those theologians who follow this opinion, admit that in practice the opposite opinion should be followed. We may instance Collet, who says: " In practice we must act as if the effect of the sacrifice, divided between many, will be less for each; because in those things which depend on the sole will of God not sufficiently manifested to us, and which among doctors are not improbably disputed on one side and the other, that part is to be held which is both safer, and contains no danger."
The better founded, and better received opinion, however, would seem to be the one which holds that the holy sacrifice is not as profitable for each person, when offered for a number, as it is for one, when offered solely for him. De Lugo, (Disp. xix., sect. xii.) who follows this opinion, says : " The more common, and the truer opinion simply denies this infinity in the sacrifice of the Mass." Thus he holds that the holy sacrifice is not as beneficial to each of a number for whom it is offered, as if offered solely for one. Cardinal Bellarmine, (De Missa, cap, iv.) Suarez, (Disp. 79, sect. 12.) and the great body of theologians, hold this opinion.
Bellarmine lays down this proposition: " The value of the sacrifice of the Mass is finite." He immediately subjoins : " This is the common opinion of theologians, and is proved most clearly from the usage of the Church." Among the arguments which De Lugo puts forward to sustain it are the following.
Unless this opinion were true, it would be vain to offer Mass for one dead person in particular, when, as the opposite opinion would have it, he should receive no more advantage from it, than if it were offered for all the dead together, aye, and for all the living along with them. Again if we were to admit the opposite opinion, it would follow that a priest, who receives a stipend from several persons to offer Mass for them, could satisfy his obligation by offering one Mass for all. But no theologian could admit this. Moreover the Mass, in so far as it is offered up by Jesus Christ, is neither meritorious nor satisfactory in itself, since He no longer merits, or satisfies. It has the power of satisfying for our sins—of taking away our debt, only inasmuch as it has annexed to it the past satisfactions of Christ, which it applies to us, or to the dead. The annexation of the past satisfactions of Christ to the Mass, and the application of them to us, or the dead, ought not to take place, so as to have an infinite value. It was only congruous that the virtue of the holy Mass should be limited, because it was the will of Christ that it should be frequented, -and often repeated. If the value of it were infinite, it would not be so frequented, or so often offered up. In this supposition it would be unnecessary, and useless to institute chaplaincies and foundations to have Masses offered for the dead.